7 Japanese Independent Film Directors You Must Check Out - Part 1 - Raindance

During a decade of Japanese independent film, technic and skills of the camera work, the recording and the editing looks better than before. In some independent films, a professional camera man or a musician are hired for a film.

On the other hand, intention of directors are lacking – full of engaging, powerful, challenging, and creating new thing: One of the greatest examples is Takeshi Kitano’s films –Third feature film A Scene at the Sea(1991) and Forth feature film Sonatine(1993) : these films had been ignored by almost film critics and general audiences in a those days.

Independent film industries are not optimistic. Though there are many independent film festivals in Japan – Pia film festival, the Yubari international fantastic film festival, Tokyo FilMex, and other local film festival, the fact is if a director took the Grand Prix in the some film festivals, still struggle to screen the film in a theater and make a next film. One of the reasons is that having ambitious and good producer in the major distribution company has been losing. Other reason is that so many similar styles of story and direction have been appearing.

I think truth style of the independent films probably has changed “challenge” to “adaptation”, which means to create storyline and direction that’s familiar with general audiences, and doing self-distribution and promoting, we don’t hope anything in commercial industry. Then, good point is they are looking for international stage. Some independent film festivals like Raindance, which have been continuing original Japanese films section since 1998, “should” have become increasingly important in recognizing and promoting the works of Japanese filmmakers.

Independent films should challenge for creating new kind of film, original direction and genre. Its ambition would be the most important Japanese independent film, but also commercial films for next a decade.

Akira Kurosawa “Rasyomon” helped introduce Japanese film to western audience. Donald Riche who was well-known writer on Japanese film helped introduce it to the international audience. Now, Jasper Sharp who is writer and curator on Japanese Film Festival; Zipangu Fest in London and Shinsedai Cinema Film in Toronto, struggles to introduce it to more international audience. I’m very proud their working.

Today, I will take over their greatest working, and introduce Japanese films through one of “Japanese” point of view.

Keep your minds, following independent directors are Seven Samurai. 

Paul Yang



Born in 1985, half American and half Japanese, worked as an assistant editor for documentaries during a student at Nippon University College of the Arts. He graduated at graduate school of film and new media, Tokyo University of the Arts in 2010.

 His first feature film Sheep in the Night(2012), which?is graduate production film at graduate school of film and new media, the Tokyo University of the Arts, was invited at the Japanese Film Festival Nippon Connection at Frankfurt, Germany in 2011.



Sheep in the Night (Mayonaka No Hitsuji)

Director: Paul Young

Screenplay: Paul Young

Genre: suspense, sci-fi and horror.

Running time: 73 minutes

Production: Graduate school of film and new media, Tokyo University of the Arts

 It would be deeply regret that most of international film festival had ignored and Japanese films producers had not given opportunity for him to make a next film.

 Sheep in the Night, mixing several genre, suspense, sci-fi and horror, introduce us miserable world – story is not easy to understand, making us confused like puzzle. But, this is necessary performance for this film. .

The director, Pail Young is challenging new genre, questioning over and over what are genre of suspense, sci-fi and horror, and then escape from specific genre. Obviously, he is trying to define new genre.

Sheep in the night is as influential as George Lucas debut film THX 1138 (1971).

Tetsuya Mariko


Born in 1981, Tokyo. Short film Kyokuto No Mantion (2003) and Mariko Sanjyuki (2004) was winner of Grand Prize at Yubari international fantastic film festival in Hokkaido, which is one of the biggest independent film festivals in Japan.

 First feature film Yellow Kid (2009), which is graduate production film at graduate school of film and new media, Tokyo University of the Arts, was invited at Vancouver International Film Festival, 62th International Film Festival Rotterdam and many. This film was screened at many independent film theaters around Japan, despite of low budget (about 2 million yen – 13,000 pounds) and only 2 weeks shooting days.

Latest short film NINIFUNI (2011) was invited at 64th Locarno International Film Festival.


NINIFUNI (2011)Japanese3

Director: Tetsuya Mariko

Screenplay: Tetsuya Mariko.

Genre: Drama, Crime, Music

Running time: 42 minutes

Production: DJANGO FILM, Tetsuya Mariko

 NINIFUNI is not a clutch films, so to speak, it may prove to be the director, Tetsuya Mariko’s calling card for biggest budget project.

His approach of shooting a scene is extremely good and proper for describing each character’s feeling by setting up the camera. For example, a scene is a film that a young man is walking to garage. It is subtle scene, but feeling “something bad must have happened”. That’s piece of fantastic direction.

Remember that his feature film Yellow kid (2009), which is graduate production film at graduate school of film and new media, Tokyo University of the Arts, was invited many international film festival (One of them is Raindance) and was screened at several theaters around Japan though, he still doesn’t have opportunity to make big budget film as professional.

I must paraphrase that Ryan Coogler who is independent film director of Fruitvale Station, which was invited Sundance and Un Certain Regard at 66th Cannes International Film Festival, has not been given opportunity to make a next film?

International – leaning film festival will take notice his fantastic ability, but I’m deeply afraid of any commercial film industry will not.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh_gG8QrZFI

Daisuke MiyazakiJapanese4


Born in 1980, Yokohama, graduated Faculty of Political Science and Economic, University of Waseda.

In 2004, he participated in the summer school of New York University (NYU) that took place in Japan. His thesis THE 10TH ROOM won the Christine Choi Award which is the grand prix at the KUT Film Festival held by the NYU. After attending Leos Carax MELD (2008) as a production designer assistant, he started working as an assistant director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata (2011).

First feature film END OF THE NIGHT was invited at the 35th Sao Paulo International Film Festival, which is the largest film festival in South America and many.


END OF THE NIGHT (Yoru ga Owarubasyo)Japanese5

Director: Daisuke Miyazaki

Screenplay: Daisuke Miyazaki

Genre: Crime

Running time: 79 minutes

Production:  Gener80 Film Production


Story is basically based on same background of Tokyo Sonata (2009) – economic crisis – the director, Daisuke Miyazaki jointed as one of the assistant directors. But, location and genre are difference – Tokyo sonata is in Tokyo with drama, on the other hand, End of the Night is in local city with film noir.

My question is “why did he make Film Noir?” – Japan is rich, clean, low unemployment rates, and everything seems perfect compared to other countries like Italy and Spain. Consequently, it’s not necessary to shoot it.

 “End of the Night” is not challenging to new genre, and the original direction and the storytelling are not revealed. Furthermore, it’s less reality. In other worlds, simply says this is a renaissance of classic genre – Film Noir.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mZFThWJoyc

Official Web-site (in English): http://www.daisukemiyazaki.com/